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tv   Washington Week  PBS  April 6, 2019 1:30am-2:00am PDT

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robert: president trump changes course but sticks to his hard line. i'm robert costa, welcome to." "washington we brinkmanship at the southern border. president trump threatens to close it, then backs o. president trump: i may shut it down s ate point but i'd rather do tariffs. robert: the attorney general under pressure as democ request the mueller report and the president's tax returns. >> let's rise to a level of presidential in all of this. sh us the mueller report, show us the tax returns. robert: plus, the former vice president's conduct facese scrutiny asears a 2020 run. me, iis incumbent on think everybody else, to make sure that if you embrace someone, if you touch someone, it's with their consent,
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regardless of your intentions. robert: next. announcer: this is "washington week." funding is provided by -- >> kevin. >> kevin. >> advice for life.fe liell planned. learn more at >> babbel, a language program that teaches real life conversations in a new language such as spanish, french, german, italian and more. babbel's 10 to 15-minute lessons are available as an app or online. more information on announcer:addition funding is provided by -- koo and patricia yuen through the yuen foundation, committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities. the corporation for public
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broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, from washington, moderator robert costa. robert:good evening. president trump came close shutting down the u.s.-mexico border, even as advisers and business leaders warned him that it would rock the economy. then he backed away. he gave mexico, quote, a one-year warning, warning ofar autofs and shuttered border if they don't crack down on migration. president trump: our country is full, our areas aree full. sector is full. can't take anymore, i'm sorry. can'tn. so turn around. robert: joining me tonight, katty kay, anchor of "bbc world news america" and host of "beyondbeyond 10 days." gerald seib, executive editor
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for the "wall street journl ," environmenotection agency, white house reporter for "the washington post" "the washington post" and geoff bennett, white house correspondent for nbc news. geoff, you're at the white house day in, day out, tracking this president. what led him to back away from the decision to close the border?it geoff: you had mcconnell on the hill making clear the threat to close the border would cause disaster. there are a couple of things that account for h hard-line approach and his trip to the border today. one, absent any domestic agenda, the president is returning to an issue he thinks works for him and on the political atspherics of it, when you've engaged in theog demry in the issue of immigration the way the president has, he makes it so he can'teposition or find common ground because to do
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anything less than pursue one of the positions he's staked out would seem as if he's capitulating to his base. robert: did mexico change its behavior at all? the predent said mexico has been helpful this week. is that accurate? geoff: a couple of experts said the president was right on t numbers, saying that mexico apprehended 1400 people in the last couple of days. that's true, but it's also true that mexico has had tough immigration 2014 so there is no causality betwee p thesident's tough rhetoric and anything new mexican authorities a'v doing. th been doing it all along. robert: just because the president backed away from his decision to close the border doesn't mean he's suddenly upending his immigration policy. on friday morning, president trump announced he's pulling the nomination of ronald vityellow to lead u.s. immigrations and customs eorcement, i.c.e.,
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saying he wants someone tougher. "the washingto post" is reporting that steven merrill -- miller was unenthused about the nomination. a white house official said stephen wants to put attila the hun as director of i.c.e. ashley, how much i miller shaping immigration policy at this time and wha does it reveal to have this nomination pulled? ashley: stephen miller has alwaeen the driving force on immigration and throughout theid prcy, it seems the president will flirt a little bit with democrats, maybe offer up something on daca and when he's pulled back, it's stephen miller. the president's gut instinct is that far right, a position he's taken for decades, if you read
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his books, what he's said before. busit's stephen who has alw been doing this but to see this nomination pulled, miller is absolutely behind this. he was one of the people the president's ear about this and "the post" also reported that the president in the oval office told a group of people stephen miller is in charge of immigration now. while it was always the case, t have the president codify it in the oval was office, elevates stephen even more as we head into 2020 where immigration will be a divisive issue that the president tries to inflame. robert: democrats are calling foen increased aon to the humanitarian crisis on the border where manra ms from central america are seriously ill or in need of medical care including children. and the democrats are fighting the president's use of executive power and planning to file a lawsuit to block the
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administration from tiverting mone pay for the barrier. in the addition to the lawsuit, from the houseemocrats, a coalition of twentd states -- 20 states igi chall the trump administration's decision. the trump administration says, based on the data, there is a surge of migrantorat ther but the democrats say it's a humanitarian crisis and nots enough being done. is that message being hrd? katty: it seems there has been a surge. some immigration experts sth happens around springtime, it's not uncommon to have a huge group of people coming. some people on the borr are saying they've been hearing back at home in guatemala and honduras and el salvador, the border m tht close soy're trying to get here before the border is closed. one thing immigration experts say you need to t deal with crisis on the border is more judges to process asylum seekers so when the president said we need less courtme invol,
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immigration experts say we need more court involvement, more judges to process the asylum seekers. the other thing the president id is thate would cut aid to muchhree countries drivi of the immigration. it is not just single mexican mepl as p from those countries. cutting aiday hurt the situation as people looking at immigration, whether fromor eure the middle east or africa, or central america, will tell you, youave to deal withhe source. if you're going to address the migration issue, it's not about walls orrs bor but what happens at the roberty, you also had the president stepping back from his decision on healthcare. he cald for a new republican healthcare plan then said we're going to punt it until after t 2020 elections. you couple that with the decision on the border,it what s telling us about this presidency at this te?
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gerald: first of all, i sense a frustrated president. i still have to deal with mueller report so il tank the the -- change the subject to healthcare. r illy am frustrated by the border so i'm going tone stake a position on mexico. i think it's a sign of frustration. i also have a sense of a president unbound, unfettered donald trump. yo ave been seeing this year that he's been much of his first two years constrained by staff, by john kelly, the chief off st some extent. that's gone now. he's in a sense his own domestic policy director and foreign policy director a he's saying what's on his mind whether on twitter or live and if he has t rollback the next day or the next week, fine, i'lo move on t the next one and i think you're seeing pure trump. katty: it's also an interesting relationship with the republican party over t last weekecause on two big issues, healthcare and the border, he hasad
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roll back aft pressure. robert: specifically mitch mcconnell, majority leader. what i mcconnell's power right now? katty: mcconnellas always had this close influence with president trump because in a wat he she first two years doing what president trump wanted so it gives him some clout and he has the republican hrty behin particularly on the issue of the border where business leaders are saying, you can't do this, the cure would be worse than the problem. >> what's fascinating is how often the congressional leaders of thearresident's only on capitol hill are taken by surprise. it says something aboutio communic or lack of communication, lack of consultation. it's stunning. ashley: this is also what the president has to grapple with going into020, the rhetoric versus reali so the rhetoric of healthcare, saying we'll cover all pre-existing conditions. the reality is it's difficult to
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craft a pan that doe that -- plan that does that and republicans couldn't do that when they controlled both chambers of congress. >> the president often engaged in bumper sticker style politics where he throws out a phrase that works on a bumper sticker but not investing in the nuances of it. in healthcare and immigration, he's taking up positions on two issues that the republican party paid dearly for in the midterm elections. >> there's also an element of this worng for him. he made threats against the chinese and they came around on trade. the idea that you make a threat and have to pull it back may sod terrible but to him he may ink, it's worked before. robert: we see another battleground this week not just on immigration and healthcare but the mueller report. members of the robert mueller's team reportedlyrustrated with attorney general william barr
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who so far has only congress on the broad strokes of mr. mueller's investigation into russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice. the "new york times" reports that mueller's associatesdre concerhat mr. barr's letter has given only a limited view of their findings, including summaries. a justice department spokesperson wrote that the report will not be released until it has been reviewed and partiallyte red when you look at the "post" reporting and "times" reporting on the mueller team, 22 month l without ak from robert mueller's team. now based on these reports, they're talking to their friends at d.o.j., talking to other friends, newspapers are hearing whispers. is there aal crack f? and is that frustration for real ashley: there is a crack finally for those of us who for 22 months have been trying to find ways in and it cannot be overated how striking this is.
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this was a wildly dndciplined shophe fact that these frustrations are coming into public view reflects they are very rl and mueller's team has been very frustrated by the limited summary tt barr h given and one of the frustrations was that they wrote those summaries that they felt were camera-ready and ready to go in t public a provide more nuance and context and to be clear, there was stuff tedt neo be redacted but their thinking was that could happen quickly. the justice department says redactions would have taken a while but they think as much out as possible is the best possible thing especially if youook at the obstruction bucket where it was mixed from that summary, wet understandt it seems like mueller found some of evidence on one side and evidencern otide and couldn't reach a conclusion and there is thinking the awrican public should k what is weighing the scale on each side. robert: democrats are
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suspicious, geoff, about attorney general barr. is there a cover-up? you've heard that word this weem from somerats. other republicans are saying ocmocrats are overreaching. geoff: and dts make the point that this whole thing adds to their argument that they need to see the entir report and all of the underlying evidence to figure out how barr reached his conclusions surrounding the assummary. barr made clear what he will and will not release. democrats have issued subpoenas but whereas before in the administration's past, where the mere threat of congressional subpoena woulde enough to compel an administration into complying, this white house has made it certain that they don't think they have t comply. gerald: i thinkoo he's smart to mischaracterizehe conclusions of the mueller
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report. i think we're talking about his attempt to control the release and also dealing with what i think is inevitable, that in three to 400 pages, there are bound to be embarrassing details for the preside so i'm distinguishing between what's in the report in full glory and what the bottom line conclusions are. i suspect thee bottom l conclusions have to be corwict but lliam barr has control over how much the rest of it comes out. robert: we saw senator chuck grassley, a republican, call for the full mueller report to be released. is there a clamor on.o the. side for more disclosure? katty: democrats talk about chuck grassley who would all like the mueller rept to be released and i think we're in a battle over timing, timing of the summaries thate understand from the reporting, the mueller team actually proleded, the l of redactions and then even possibly the issue of whether mueller himself is asked to testify to answer questions if democrats still have them.
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robert: when you think about the mocrats, geoff, they're not just looking for the mueller report. they're also requesting t president's tax returns this week. cheryl -- chairman richard neil of massachusetts sent a letter to the i.r.s. asking for the president's tax returns from 2013 to 2018. do the democrats expect to get them? geoff: i think they're preparing for a protracted leg battle. he sent this request not to the the i.r.s., but when you hear donald trump say he's not inclined to comply, this is one of the rare moments in the view of arican life where the view of the president does not matter because the i.r.s. code writes that when the relevant committee reques the tax return of any taxpayer, the i.r.s. hasur to them over but the president has acquired a new
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legal team to prevent this. the democrats are saying they're doing this on the policy. they argue they want to make sure the i.r.s. is doing the job they're supposed to be doing in auditing a sitting president and vice president. katty: to which the president's new lawyers' response is why are you asking for the tax returns from 2013 to 2016, before he came president, if this is a procedural issue. ashl: the white house for as unpleasant as both the tax returns and mueller report, some potentially unflattering details may be, the white houseas viewed this as a political winner because they say when democrats are issuingubpoenas and going after the president, it will look like overreach and what the president has been claiming for two years now, a witch hunt,, and that they can not just theismiss mueller report but any future investigations and future
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misbehavior they don't like. gerald: which is why chairman il was reluctant to move ahead and ask for the tax returns.he robert: is chairman, chairman neil, speaker pelosi, for say they're doing it policy reasons but are they also under pressure from the democratic base? gerald: a lot of pressure and they're resisting that pressure. i think y saw the speaker resist the pressure, impeachment, right up front, saying he's not worth it was the famous line. and chairman neil resisted for three, four months now. the base wanted him to go directly to the administration immediately uponaking the majority in the house and t ask fo tax returns and he said we have to be careful, whatever argument we make for why we should have the returns, will bd challe katty: pelosi has to juggle with the base clamoring f more
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subpoenas, they also have to deal with those in trump districts who are hearing from constituents that they want to move forward on issues like healthcare and education and economics and jobs and they don't wanto be talkingbout investigations non-stop.: robetty noted the president has a new legal team but the white house b seems toe preparing for this moment. the president was pushing in february for the i.r.s.' chief counsel to be a trump ally. ashley: it's not a position you would necessarily expect the president to take acute interest in until you realize this is a person in power to make a key decision pentially defending, protecting the president and you understand that taxes have been on the president's mind for some time. it gets not just the issues in the white house but president is someone whose sense off s is so tied up in his net worth, there's a number of reasons why he doesn't want his tax returns to come out.
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robert: in the letter to ther. , you had the chairman pushing for more disclosure from the white house but you also had the white house asking their own response to that letter for the department of justice to weigh in so you have attorney general bill barr at the center ofhi ever -- the tax returns and mueller report. let's leave that on the shelf because the 2020 presidential race is simmering. former vice president j biden who advisers say could launch a campaign this month has long been leading democratic contender in the polls but has faced allegations from women who say he inappropriately touched them. on friday, biden addressed the matter during remarks at a union event in washington. >> i just want you to know tha i had permission to hug lonnie. robert: he also sai this. >> i'm sorry i didn't understand. m not second -- sorry for any oy intentions, i'm not sorry for
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anything i've ever done. i've never been disrespectful intentionally to a man or woman. robert: katty, when you watchli that talking about he had to giveon from lonni them a hug and you see him kind of apologizing, what doest tell us about this possible candidate for the white house. katty: he was making joke about the whole issue of personal space and the accusations against him and actually if y listen the recording of the room, it seemed to go down pretty well. this was a largely, i understand, male audience and there was a lot of cheering when he made that joke and i think that gets to an interesting issue in the whole state that we are in between people who that the "me too" movement may have gone too far a now it is overcorrected and people who feel it hasn't gone far enough and we need to push the issue personal space and the other thing joe biden said coming out of that is i am still a biden
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obama democrat and i believe the democratic party is fundamentally the same. that's the challenge for joe biden. is the democratic party ndamentally the same? or has there been a real sea change in not just society but in the democratic party, that this is not ok and you are too out of touch and too old.hi geoff: i he realized that his attempt at hum was a miscalculation. i thinkts democ progressive liberals, will have to figure out the acceptable level of political fragility because whoever emerges as the democratic candidate has to face donald trump who is politically shameless and being politically shameless and using that as a cudgel against his perceived enemy and even this morning the president said he felt justified
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in mocking joe biden because people got a kick out of it. it's a fraught thing politically. ashley: that is what's so striki, when you have a president accused of sexual assault by more than a dozen women, a president who on the "access hollywoo" tape, boasted groping women and and you have biden encountering his own problemsh w women, you don't expect that president or politician to eagerly lp into a public dialogue about sexual rusbehavior but president is not any politician and the democrats will have to grapple with asymmetrical warfare whenu run against someone who is shameless. robert: doese still runfter all of this? gerald: it's 95% sure he runs but it's joe biden so the last
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5% matters.o. i think s there's enormous respect and s for joen and fondn biden at the base of the democratic party and amongst importantue consties, african americans, african american women, blue collas worker the industrial midwest that democrats have to get back from donald trump to win thect 2020 en. this gets to the point you were making, where's the energy in the democratic party? in 2018, many winning votes were moderateoters, soft republicans in the upper industrial midwest who back to democrats and those are joe biden voters. rt: the party thought j biden was the ticket to those voters in 2020. yet they have othonnders who fit a similar profile from the midwest, mayor mor of south bend. katty: joe biden has a bigger profile and better access to
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operatives than those candidates do. to get to the primaries. the issue of donald trump is not really who he's running against. to gould tell he's going out and say i can get you michigan and wisconsin, robert: for being here. appreciate it. our conversation will continue on."he "washington week ext we will discuss a security breach at l maro and what it means for the president's security. website,on our facebook or youtube starting at 8:30 p.m. every friday nigh i'm robert costa. have a great weekend. announcer: corporate funding is provided by -- l
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>> babbel,guage program that teaches real life conversations in a new language such as spanish, french, german, italian d more. babbel's 10 to 15-minute lessons are available as an p or online. more information on announcer:financial services firm, raymond james. additional funding is provide by -- koo and patricia yuen through the yuen foundation, committed to bridging culturalrences in our communities. the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you.u. thank [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible fnt its caption t and accuracy. visit] >> you're watching pbs. ♪
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